A while ago I met Fredrik, he was sitting outside the Royal Library. As he was sitting there, smoking, obviously enjoying himself by doing nothing. At first I didn’t want to disturb him. He looked, however, like a man with a story.
30 years he has been living in Stockholm, and is originally from a small village called Boden, which lays way up North. He came to Stockholm because he felt like an outsider in his hometown. “If you don’t fit in”, Fredrik said, “Boden is not the right place for you”.
In Stockholm he had the feeling he could be as extravagant as he wanted. Even though the Theatre is a place of exceptional amounts of gossip, it is also a place where people are more likely to accept you the way that you are. “The way I’m dressed today would not be possible in Boden. Here in Stockholm, however, nobody cares. Here you can be anonymous when you want to. I like that about Stockholm. Here for instance, at the library, I don’t notice the busy city, I like the silence here”.
When he first came to Stockholm, the city was very different from what it is today. Because of the extreme growth of the last 15 years and the privatization of all social housing sector, the city has changed its character. Fredrik told me that Södermalm, now a middle-class hipster-heaven, was just over a decade ago a place where low-class worker families lived. “There wasn’t a single Porche to be seen. Now there are plenty. Nobody went to Nytorget, the ‘Urban Deli’ used to be a post office.”
He lit another cigarette.
“If you wanted to see a good play in those days, there were a lot of basement theatres that you could choose from, in which free theatre groups would perform. Those groups have been pushed out of the centre. There is no place in the city centre for free and experimental art, it is now a place for static, politically correct work. Yes, you can go to the Philharmonic Orchestra, but they essentially just play covers.”
I asked him if there are still places in Stockholm where you can visit an unconventional theatre, hosting free experimental groups. “Absolutely”, he said, “ take a look at something at Moment in Gubbängen, those guys are great. Or go to Turteatern in Kärrtorp. But if you want to see different types of art, in Bagarmossen there are many workshops.
I had come to my last question, when I asked him what could be better in this city. “The fact that we all live in groups. In the centre all the middle class white people live, that got money from their parents to make a down payment on their mortgage. Around that centre are some rich neighbourhoods and many places for the poor. Back in the days this city was more mixed, I would like to have that come back.”
Fredrik lit another cigarette when I thanked him for the interview. “Take care” he said, and when I walked away, he continued sitting there, enjoying himself, as undisturbed as before.